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eHam Forums => Misc => Topic started by: KK6GNP on September 19, 2013, 02:26:59 PM



Title: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on September 19, 2013, 02:26:59 PM
Starting to learn about ham radio had a fantastic side affect that I wasn't planning on.  As a corporate information technologist, my exposure to electronics has largely come in the form of assembling computers or servers from individual components.  I never had to get down to the nitty gritty of the circuits.  Learning about ham radio, and being exposed to electronics concepts in the process, really kicked me in the direction of learning about kits and building things.  Today, I'm getting my first Arduino kit from Fed Ex, and I'm diving in. I'll be building some transceiver kits as well. I've already started building my workbench and populating it with tools.

Let's take the KX3 as an example.  Most reports seem to indicate that this little radio is one hell of a machine.  When I look at pictures and videos of the internals, I'm blown away by the seeming simplicity of it, especially given the performance reports.  So my question is, where is the magic in a device like this?  Why does it perform so well with such a *seemingly* simple board compared to transceivers two or three times its size?  Are you paying for miniaturization of the components like you do in expensive smartphones, and/or does a company like Elecraft simply have access to amazing (custom made) components no one else can get?  What makes the KX3 cost $1000 compared to something like a $330 YouKits transceiver?  I realize "name brand" is part of the answer, but if that was the main answer, then I would ask why more people or companies aren't building kits with the same (or better) quality as the KX3, but for cheaper.  What's stopping YouKits from making a KX3 quality device for say $500?

Again, please keep in mind that this is all new to me.  I'm just beginning to learn about this stuff, and I'm going hands-on as of today, but I thought maybe some of you radio experts here could help me understand the differences in quality and price of some of these things.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KH6AQ on September 19, 2013, 05:35:24 PM
Part of what makes a KX3 a KX3 is hours and hours of top notch engineering to meet or exceed top notch performance specifications. The aim was not to create something good but to create something above the rest. Not only does that cost money but it commands money in the marketplace. At $1000 the KX3 is a steal. And yes, I own a KX3.

The KX3 does not count as a kit in the sense you are thinking of kits. It's available as a module "kit" that I think exists only as a vestigial remnant of the original Elecraft kit concept.



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: M6GOM on September 20, 2013, 03:26:15 AM

Let's take the KX3 as an example.  Most reports seem to indicate that this little radio is one hell of a machine.  When I look at pictures and videos of the internals, I'm blown away by the seeming simplicity of it, especially given the performance reports.  So my question is, where is the magic in a device like this?  Why does it perform so well with such a *seemingly* simple board compared to transceivers two or three times its size?  Are you paying for miniaturization of the components like you do in expensive smartphones, and/or does a company like Elecraft simply have access to amazing (custom made) components no one else can get?  What makes the KX3 cost $1000 compared to something like a $330 YouKits transceiver?  

OK...

Traditional radios receive a chunk of bandwidth and put it through several stages involving mechanical filters eventually pumping it out as audio. Depending on the strength of signals near to the one you want to hear and how good the filtering is, the nearby signals you don't want to hear can prevent you hearing the ones you do. A filter doesn't cut out 100% of the nearby signal out of its pass band but merely attenuates it. Also a traditional radio is the same radio 20 years down the line as the day it left the factory because everything is set.

Radios like the KX3 are what is called a SDR - Software Defined Radio. A SDR effectively samples a large chunk of RF similar to audio and then does all the processing in software. Because it is all done in software it allows the radio to completely ignore the nearby signals you don't want to hear giving you a better chance of hearing what you do want. They are often described as having cliff wall filtering because they do completely block out all signals outside of the passband.

In addition, being software defined the radio can be upgraded by software with improved DSP as well as adding additional functionality with a simple firmware update - something that cannot be done with a traditional radio once it has left the factory.

Why the KX3 costs a lot more than the Youkits is that you have a transceiver, not just receiver only, and one that is far more capable than the cheap SDRs that do transmit. It does more power and has better filtering and IMD of the transmitted signal, all of which involve expensive parts and design above that of a $300 Youkits SDR. Also on receive the KX3 has additional filtering that the Youkits don't as well as far better performing custom ICs and FPGAs.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1JKA on September 20, 2013, 03:50:37 AM
Re: KK6GNP

    Keeping in mind that the cost point definition for "hi end " transceivers is different for each of us (mine is in the 3-5K range) and each ones definition of low power portable ranging from picnic table, campground, base camp to back packing, hiking, SOTA is also different and requiring the appropriate rigs for each, your topic heading got me thinking about this particular "magic trick", Is the Vertex Standard 1210 being what it is at around $2100.00 (base) cheap compared to the KX3 at around $1000.00 (base) or is the KX3 expensive compared to the VS 1210? Aside from weight/size issues again depending on your definition of portable ops I'm mainly thinking in terms of quality construction, survivability, and ability to handle basic cw/ssb communications.





Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K1CJS on September 20, 2013, 05:02:25 AM
Part of it is simple-- "I have a (insert your rig identity here)"

Didn't you ever hear that "He who has the most toys... wins."


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1JKA on September 20, 2013, 05:23:47 AM
Re: K1CJS

  Do my MFJ Cubs (insert your rig identity  here) count as a win?  ;D


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AA4PB on September 20, 2013, 05:56:04 AM
Software DSP filters have a sharper cutoff than typical crystal or mechanical filters but they aren't capable of completely eliminating all the signals but the one you want to hear. DSP is good, but it's not that good  :D


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on September 20, 2013, 06:24:38 AM
Part of the magic is a very expensive feedback loop in which issues pointed out by the customers are actually fixed by the engineers.  With cheap stuff you often have to accept that things aren't going to work the way you want them to--with no practical way of changing that.

If you study the designs, the better radios typically have better filtering to get rid of unwanted signals.  For instance, the KX3 has optional roofing filters to achieve those good measured numbers.

Ideally, you would filter everything out you don't absolutely need.  For instance, if  you wanted to receive a signal at 7.040, you would have a filter that just let that pass.  But, a really narrow filter to do that is prohibitively costly, so you compromise with a wider filter, such as one that lets in 7.0 to 7.3 MHz.  If you wanted to be cheap, you might not bother, and let the gullible user think he is getting a better deal by having a receiver that picks up a ton of signals--many of which are fake signals not actually on the band!  But, even a good radio might compromise with that 7.0 to 7.3 MHz filter--it might let VHF signals get through, as it is costs more  to design and implement a stop band that high.  So, you may have a radio that works great, until it gets hit by nearby pager and public service transmitters.... which generate unwanted intermodulation products.

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on September 20, 2013, 08:10:10 AM
Thanks for all the replies!  Your answers more or less reflected what I was expecting to hear.

I chose the KX3 as an example, not because of the price point, but because it's a new design, simple looking (I know it's anything but simple) on the inside, and is considered to be of very, very high quality for its form factor.  I was looking at the YouKits 5-band CW SSB portable for field QRP too, and it brought up some questions about how these things are built, and where the price tag comes from.  Why would I spend $1500 on a KX3, if I can get (or build) something like a YouKits with decent band coverage, basically the same level of outdoors ruggedness, etc.

I'm diving into electronics tinkering, and so I started looking at transceiver kits to go with my Arduino tinkering.  I figure I can learn a lot building some good kits.  This led me to ask questions about what makes a high end transceiver, well, high end. It is logical that something like a KX3 is much more refined in its details, has great software, and has been engineered better than a cheaper kit.  Though how much of its capability, for example, has to do with simply using superior components?

What I was getting at is that if I ever get to a point where I can build my own transceiver from scratch, will I have access to the same high quality circuit components that Elecraft does, or are they having custom components made that are of a higher quality than parts on the open market?  I don't expect to build something as nice as a KX3 on my workbench, but if I wanted to attempt the best quality single band project, for example, I would like to get the best parts I can to build it.

For me, the money in my ham radios is a consideration, but that's mostly because I have several hobbies and activities that I inject discretionary money into. Ham is only one of them.  I'm also realistic about how much transceiver I should buy, when I live in a suburban HOA neighborhood with antenna restrictions.

I appreciate the comments on this thread.  


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KG6AF on September 20, 2013, 08:44:23 AM
Software DSP filters have a sharper cutoff than typical crystal or mechanical filters but they aren't capable of completely eliminating all the signals but the one you want to hear. DSP is good, but it's not that good  :D

But when you use both crystal filters and DSP, the results are kind of amazing.  If I'm operating CW with a K3 and use a 250 Hz roofing filter followed by a DSP filter that I can crank down to 50 or 100 Hz, nothing gets through except the signal I want (unless you're next door, maybe).

I think the best transceiver designers pick their goals first, not the implementation approach.  Rather than saying, "I'm going all analog" or "I'm going all digital," they lay out the performance goals, then choose the best techniques to achieve them.

Not that I'm a critic of, say, Flex; I think what they're doing is pretty cool.  And there are some very simple receivers and transceivers, such as SoftRock, that may not have the best specs, but have an amazing performance-to-cost ratio.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AK7V on September 20, 2013, 08:59:54 AM
I might be wrong, but I don't think Elecraft has access to special components that the rest of us don't.  I think the fact that it is SDR makes component quality less important than in a rig that relies on them exclusively.

Some of the non-SDR receiver (or transceiver) kits are fantastic, too, like Elecraft's K2 or even many of the other, cheap single-band QRP radios.  Some of these are great because they're limited -- if they only need to RX 40 meter CW, they can choose components and bandwidths that support that goal, and "filter out" everything else.  It used to be that buying a rig with "general coverage receive" meant poorer overall RX performance.  Also, a lot of the kits are designed by very good designers who are doing it because they love it.  No deadlines, no burnt-out engineers in cubes, no committees or bean counters, etc. 



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on September 20, 2013, 09:03:39 AM
I found that I could get better parts for RF filtering than the manufacturers would use.   ;D 

Seriously, a serious amateur can scour the marketplace for one of a kind deals that for parts that no manufacturer could consider using, and design them into his radio.   You can even use obsolete parts.  For example, the Mitsubishi MGF 1801 is capable of a ridiculously low noise figure at 2M and 222MHz.  

Quality feedthroughs with EMI filtering can be quite expensive, yet I've found great surplus deals that a manufacturer wouldn't be able to use.

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AD4U on September 20, 2013, 09:09:12 AM
If you already have a decent rig, most of the magic in owning one of the high end $10,000 rigs lies mainly between the operator's ears.

Dick  AD4U


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KM6XZ on September 20, 2013, 10:28:00 AM
High volume mass produced items deliver incredible value for a modest investment, whether a cell phone or digital camera. As features and raw performance is considered as they apply to less than usual conditions, the incremental step differences become more and more expensive, harder to achieve and requires novel engineering solutions. Ham rigs are no different than say, digital cameras in which increasingly diminishing returns. A very good point and shoot camera is $100 and handles typical casual shooting very well. As one seeks little better speed, autofocus, light gathering capability, each incremental improvement is harder to achieve and apply mostly to non-typical or extreme conditions of low light, high speed moving subjects, high color and tone fidelity, soon you are needing to spend $1500 for 20% better. Spending $20,000 increases the capabilities by another 5%.
Applying the same characteristics of diminishing returns for incremental improvements, a $400 SDR will work just fine for local rag chewing and an occasional DX contact with the conditions are very good. The Kx3 is a bargain if performance alone is considered because it is a relatively small step in price but a significant step in being suitable for more extreme conditions that many hams will never really need. The people who do value the small incremental differences between a general purpose goof value rig and a refined contesting rig think the big step up in price, in the $4-10k is reasonable.  Is it 10 times the performance over the $400 rig? In general terms no, but a 5-10% increase makes the difference in extreme conditions.
My own camera plus lenses totals about $12,000 and my ham rig is a K2 and a TS-50. At one time, the ratio of ham gear(most home brew) expenses dwarfed my camera expenses. The towers, big arrays, fluid cooled amps, and the precision test instruments needed to eek out the last bit of performance was worth the pursuit of that last 5%. Priorities change so now it would seem silly and unaffordable.
So what is good for you? I suggest not going for the best, but the most appropriate. Something you can repair yourself and learn all about it, and master it.  You will discover that some performance characteristics are lacking for some specialty later on, that might motivate you to seek higher performance in that specialty. But before getting lots of practical hands on experience, you will not know what of the million different aspects of ham radio that draws you in the most. You will not know what you would really benefit most from until you find a specialty that peaks your interest.  Get anything to get on the air, experiment with antennas( antenna restricted locations is a whole hobby in itself), type of operating and bands all make a very wide range of distinct parameters for improved operating in that specialty.
I moved to another country a number of years ago and could not operate but a couple years ago CLEP agreement was signed and now I can operate from St Petersburg Russia. So for me, with a difficult antenna situation, and living in a 250 yo apartment in the historic city center, my K2, a battery pack and some backpackable antennas mean more to me than the full bore station I had back in California for years.  Going out to the woods on weekends and charged gel cell and very low noise location without any people or power lines is a good  way of getting on the air. It all fits in my large camera bag. The Kx3 would probably be worth every penny[kopek] for my application.
What application do you seek to satisfy?


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on September 20, 2013, 04:12:51 PM
It depends on what parts we are talking about.  With semiconductors, no, the volume just isn't there to justify custom parts.

It is different for specialty parts, like crystal filters, in which volumes are normally quite low.  But, as I pointed out before, we can often do even better than they do by getting surplus lots of crystals and homebrewing our own custom filters. I've done things like homebrew my own approximate Gaussian crystal CW filter with minimal ringing. 

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on September 20, 2013, 06:45:26 PM
During the last CQWW VHF contest, had an opportunity to compare a KX3 with a FT-857D, head to head, on the same table, on 6m, both running 10w. Wasn't any really discernible difference in experience with SSB operations. All signals were heard by both radios at relatively the same level and useability, contacts were made on both to the same stations, none of the far stations mentioned any obvious difference between stations. This was real-life, field use case. Not lab bench.

The KX3 is obviously a cutting edge, fine radio. The FT-857D is an inexpensive shack-in-a-box. Both similarly priced. Each is worlds apart from the other in design and functionality. Both performed about the same on 6m in the field.

That's all.



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: M6GOM on September 21, 2013, 03:30:43 AM
Software DSP filters have a sharper cutoff than typical crystal or mechanical filters but they aren't capable of completely eliminating all the signals but the one you want to hear. DSP is good, but it's not that good  :D


Software DSP filters in a SDR are cliff wall responses. They completely block out all signals outside of the pass band. If the signal intrudes the passband and is strong enough to overwhelm the target one then they will and there is absolutely no way at all that anything will ever overcome that.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: M6GOM on September 21, 2013, 03:31:42 AM
I might be wrong, but I don't think Elecraft has access to special components that the rest of us don't.  

Actually they do - custom FPGAs of their own design. Whilst you too can buy the bare FPGA you don't have the code they use.

Back to the original question: What you pay for to some extent is the R&D time. R&D is not cheap. Your Youkits kit will typically have very little R&D, using off the shelf circuit designs and pre-designed ICs. Something like a KX3 has a lot of R&D using very expensive gear, of which one device could cost more than the entire R&D budget of the Youkit, they don't use off the shelf designs and they also build custom ICs as well.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KG6AF on September 21, 2013, 06:14:00 AM
Software DSP filters have a sharper cutoff than typical crystal or mechanical filters but they aren't capable of completely eliminating all the signals but the one you want to hear. DSP is good, but it's not that good  :D


Software DSP filters in a SDR are cliff wall responses. They completely block out all signals outside of the pass band. If the signal intrudes the passband and is strong enough to overwhelm the target one then they will and there is absolutely no way at all that anything will ever overcome that.

DSP filters can be designed to have sharp cut-offs, but they don't have infinite attenuation outside the passband.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AF6WL on September 21, 2013, 07:40:49 AM
I might be wrong, but I don't think Elecraft has access to special components that the rest of us don't.  

Actually they do - custom FPGAs of their own design. Whilst you too can buy the bare FPGA you don't have the code they use.


Not quite : neither the KX3 or K3 use FPGAs.
There are a few CPLDs used as IO glue logic as well as DSP and regular processors.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on September 21, 2013, 09:03:35 AM
From personal experience, if you actively do your part in open source by publishing new designs quickly,  you do get preferential treatment in getting new parts as they become available.  Thus, an active ham can actually get their hands on parts before the average company!  I think it has something to do with how parts are advertised and marketed--how better to sell a part than to see how someone actually uses it?

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on September 21, 2013, 09:22:49 PM
The ultimate DSP filter would be a "Smart" filter that could identify the individual zero beats on all signals in the presently selected passband, then extrapolate from there what actually belongs to each signal, show you each signal and let you select the one you want to listen to, then clean it up as best possible, eliminating all "improbable" material within that one particular slot. Of course, for signals on the exact same frequency, there is no recourse.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: WD8KNI on September 23, 2013, 02:13:11 AM
Cory, first off good for you on asking.  Don't overlook the "wow" "look at me factor" when you look at price point of radios.  I remember a few years ago when a representative of a well know quality manufacturer stated that if they had known to call their filters "Roofing" they would have made a ton of money.  Today more so than in the past the definition of the ham "Shack" has changed.  You will find 50 thousand dollar setups in houses that are falling down, 5 thousand dollar rigs in 500 dollar cars. We have people who spend 50K just to be top dogs in the rudeness department (contesters).  We have people who proudly tell you about their 10K investment, and use it 100% for bragging rights, (never make contacts).  These are the people who drive up the cost. Do you need a hindi or a Rolls Royce to get to work and the store.  Will your Hundi be used everyday, or will your Rolls sit in the driveway of your "Shack" because you can't afford to put fuel in it.

Remember the old joke regarding a guy meeting friend for lunch, the friend was a car salesman.  While waiting he listened to the salesman selling Cadallics.  The buyer said "Why does this one have a Red engine, while the other engine is Blue.  The salesman replied, the one with the red engine is a much much better engine.  While at lunch the friend asked, is the red engine really better, to which the salesman replied. "It has to be a better engine as that car was more expensive".

How much worth is a receiver with that can hear .001 microvolt on a band that has 50mv of noise?..
.. welcome to the hobby, enjoy it for its true value.  Fred


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AE4RV on September 23, 2013, 07:43:06 AM
On sideband it is usually hard to tell the difference. Weak signal CW in a crowded band is a whole different story. That's where you'll notice the extra $$.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on September 23, 2013, 12:39:37 PM
I haven't seen a review of the KX3 regarding high order transmit IMD and phase noise. Those are figures that show how anti social (or otherwise!) they are.....


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K7RNO on September 23, 2013, 08:35:52 PM
Cory,

First of all, congrats on getting your call. It will sound good in code, it's got rhythm!

Then, I need to express my awe when I hear that a kit builder will learn how to design transceivers. I have to admit that I am far below such a level. If I couldn't already do it, I would learn how to solder and assemble parts but I could never "decipher" the interaction of those parts that make the rig behave as it will when it is finished. At least not with a product as complex as those from Elecraft, be it made with traditional (large) or small surface-mounted elements. The design work in those kits has been done, "all" that is left is to assemble them, and not even in a sequence that would retrace the circuits' workflow, but in a sequence that makes assembly a feasible job. None of this wants to downgrade kit building, to the contrary, my hat is off to the builders. It is mostly how a person can learn transceiver design from such a job is what amazes me.

Arduino, I think, is a different subject. Have fun tinkering, and lots of "wow" moments!



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on September 23, 2013, 10:12:57 PM
I haven't seen a review of the KX3 regarding high order transmit IMD and phase noise. Those are figures that show how anti social (or otherwise!) they are.....

It'll be difficult to find that, as it will be difficult to find the leakage in those rigs publicized anywhere. It's fairly huge. Nuff said.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on September 24, 2013, 12:52:26 AM
What is frightening is how much worse on high order IMD solid state rigs are compared to the last generation of tube PA stages. The average tube ones were more than 10dB better on 7th and higher order products than the average solid state PA - Yaesus in Class A excepted.

Funny that the math predicts that, too.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: M6GOM on September 24, 2013, 03:01:43 AM
Downside of using 12V PAs. If you use 50V PAs the TX IMD improves immensely.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K2GWK on September 30, 2013, 06:15:07 PM
The rigs are only as good as their antennas. A good analogy is that a great stereo will only sound as good as the speakers attached will allow.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 01, 2013, 08:19:22 AM
Even the 50 volt ones aren't as good as the last valved PA rigs. The ones that are good are the Yaesu ones running Class A and a lot of heat.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on October 01, 2013, 08:40:00 AM
I once ran a 5 watt class A final in Sweepstakes, a domestic contest with a long exchange of information.  Not only did I do well in the contest, but I got a glowing report on my audio from an audiophile after the contest.  The rig did not have a speech processor.

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W4KYR on October 03, 2013, 06:00:23 AM


Quote
What makes the KX3 cost $1000 compared to something like a $330 YouKits transceiver?

Their successful Youkits HB1B series are basically small convenient 'trail radios'. 
The KX3 is an entirely different radio than the HB1B. 'Trail radios' like the HB1B have their place in the ham radio world. They are small and weigh nothing and are great minimalist radios, the MFJ cub is also very good in this respect as well. Some have said that the MFJ cub has been in mud, under water and in all conditions and if you just dry it off. It still works. 

The KX3 has more features, more power, more bands and that more than justifies the $700 price difference. Some have addressed concerns that they are apprehensive in taking out the KX3 into the field and have it exposed to rain, mud, snow and the elements. What I would like to see is a more rugged version of the KX3, but that is for another subject. However the KX3 will HEAR things with less interference and better selectivity than the YouKits or the MFJ cub. 

What is 'high end' anyway? Some hams say a $10,000 HF rig is high end. Others will say anything over $2000.  'Low end ' would be something like the Icom 718, selling around $550 to $700 used or new. The 718 while being a good entry level radio;...during contests like 'Field Day' it would be more difficult to separate signals and combat interference. Higher end radios have great filtering and can reject interference much better.  But all these radios have their place in the ham radio world.


Quote
What's stopping YouKits from making a KX3 quality device for say $500

I don't know if they can, but they might certainly try. I think rather than trying to copy the KX3, they are going for another segment of the market. Youkits is planning for the TJ2B MK2 5 Band SSB Handheld Transceiver to be released soon. 


Quote
I realize "name brand" is part of the answer, but if that was the main answer, then I would ask why more people or companies aren't building kits with the same (or better) quality as the KX3, but for cheaper.


It is not just features and price alone that makes a good radio. It is quality and reputation of a good manufacturer that makes a good radio, and Elecraft (which makes the KX3) is well known for it's quality products. A name brand just doesn't just imply familiarity, it  usually implies quality products. I don't think Youkits could top Elecraft in the quality department. Youkits (or some other company) might try to copy the KX3. But it would not be the KX3.

As I stated in another article. I would like to see all the great features of the KX3, FT 817, FT 897, IC 703, SG 2020 and the VX 1210 all be incorporated into one radio. Maybe the Chinese manufacturers can attempt to do it.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 03, 2013, 07:33:48 AM


Quote
What makes the KX3 cost $1000 compared to something like a $330 YouKits transceiver?

Their successful Youkits HB1B series are basically small convenient 'trail radios'. 
The KX3 is an entirely different radio than the HB1B. 'Trail radios' like the HB1B have their place in the ham radio world. They are small and weigh nothing and are great minimalist radios, the MFJ cub is also very good in this respect as well. Some have said that the MFJ cub has been in mud, under water and in all conditions and if you just dry it off. It still works. 

The KX3 has more features, more power, more bands and that more than justifies the $700 price difference. Some have addressed concerns that they are apprehensive in taking out the KX3 into the field and have it exposed to rain, mud, snow and the elements. What I would like to see is a more rugged version of the KX3, but that is for another subject. However the KX3 will HEAR things with less interference and better selectivity than the YouKits or the MFJ cub. 

What is 'high end' anyway? Some hams say a $10,000 HF rig is high end. Others will say anything over $2000.  'Low end ' would be something like the Icom 718, selling around $550 to $700 used or new. The 718 while being a good entry level radio;...during contests like 'Field Day' it would be more difficult to separate signals and combat interference. Higher end radios have great filtering and can reject interference much better.  But all these radios have their place in the ham radio world.


Quote
What's stopping YouKits from making a KX3 quality device for say $500

I don't know if they can, but they might certainly try. I think rather than trying to copy the KX3, they are going for another segment of the market. Youkits is planning for the TJ2B MK2 5 Band SSB Handheld Transceiver to be released soon. 


Quote
I realize "name brand" is part of the answer, but if that was the main answer, then I would ask why more people or companies aren't building kits with the same (or better) quality as the KX3, but for cheaper.


It is not just features and price alone that makes a good radio. It is quality and reputation of a good manufacturer that makes a good radio, and Elecraft (which makes the KX3) is well known for it's quality products. A name brand just doesn't just imply familiarity, it  usually implies quality products. I don't think Youkits could top Elecraft in the quality department. Youkits (or some other company) might try to copy the KX3. But it would not be the KX3.

As I stated in another article. I would like to see all the great features of the KX3, FT 817, FT 897, IC 703, SG 2020 and the VX 1210 all be incorporated into one radio. Maybe the Chinese manufacturers can attempt to do it.

I understand what you are saying.  I actually just ordered a KX3 kit a couple days ago.  I'm also buying a YouKits handheld.  I think it's time some players come in and start offering great performing radio hardware, at a price that makes more sense in today's world.  I was explaining to someone else on this website, that it's hard to convince my friends to get involved in ham radio with their kids, when they are going to have to pay $1000-$2000 to get started in HF with decent gear.  That's a major barrier to entry for a lot of people.  Hell, I make a good living and I've asked myself several times if I want to put that kind of money out. 

There will always be a market for the high end, but telling people they have to buy used gear in order to get a decent rig on the low end is silly in the year 2013.  While it may be common for long time ham radio ops, it's a major turn off for people who are tech savvy, but new to radio.

I've seem some other companies making interesting little SSB and CW transceivers as well, experimenting in the market.  I think this is very good for all of us in the long run, and I'll support it with my dollars more than I will the "Big Three" corporations.  Your mileage may vary, but I'm coming into this brand new, and I'd like to see it much more accessible.



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on October 03, 2013, 08:34:56 AM
The high entry cost of HF ham radio has been a concern as long as I can remember.  I recall a famous old timer at a club meeting saying that his first really good receiver cost him 4 months pay!  

The entry cost of HF ham radio has been steadily dropping through the decades I've been a ham, assuming you factor out wacky exchange rate issues beyond the control of the manufacturers.

Zack W1VT


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 03, 2013, 09:42:55 AM
In 1947, a war surplus BC348 receiver would, in the UK, cost something like 6 or 7 weeks of the average pay packet.

In 1964, a tubed, UK made SSB transceiver was about 4 months average pay - and at the factory, they would have a line of maybe 20 guys every Saturday, lining up to pay cash. Analogue frequency readout, eleven 200 kHz bands covering 160 to part of 10, no CW filter, no external VFO capability...

In 2013, a TS990S in the UK represents 3 months average pay - but look at what you get for that, while an FT950 is around 2-3 weeks pay.

So Zack is right, although the reductions are beginning to bottom out a bit.

Me? I'm using the transceiver my father bought in 1983, just before he went SK. Much modified, but with very good RF performance.....not much in the way of bells and whistles. It's done a lot of the work to get me on the DXCC Honor Roll....


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K1DA on October 04, 2013, 08:13:53 AM
Why some oof these new wizzbang radios hear CW as well as a   Drake R4C with the usual mods.   


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KD0REQ on October 05, 2013, 02:11:07 PM
cost comes from engineering and reworking as the bugs come up.  the assemblers at whatever island was above water a month ago get nothing.

part of that engineering goes into parts made from Unobtainium.  which is mined by tame trolls from the bottoms of mountains on shifting sand.  you'll know the difference two models later when you try and get the display replaced ;)

but I digress.

no, I dont.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 05, 2013, 02:33:28 PM
K1DA,

I guess that with accurate comments like that, you won't be number 1 favourite with the suppliers or dealers....

But let's face it, an instantaneous dynamic range of about 100dB is all (if not more than) 99% of hams ever need. The rest of the features are 'bells and whistles'.......

Ask Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood people ( and even Elecraft, although I'm not so sure about them) at a hamfest as to how their phase noise performance in reality supports their receiver IMD  and thus 'dynamic range claims' and you'll get lots of blank looks.....


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 06, 2013, 06:42:13 PM


Quote
What makes the KX3 cost $1000 compared to something like a $330 YouKits transceiver?

Their successful Youkits HB1B series are basically small convenient 'trail radios'. 
The KX3 is an entirely different radio than the HB1B. 'Trail radios' like the HB1B have their place in the ham radio world. They are small and weigh nothing and are great minimalist radios, the MFJ cub is also very good in this respect as well. Some have said that the MFJ cub has been in mud, under water and in all conditions and if you just dry it off. It still works. 

The KX3 has more features, more power, more bands and that more than justifies the $700 price difference. Some have addressed concerns that they are apprehensive in taking out the KX3 into the field and have it exposed to rain, mud, snow and the elements. What I would like to see is a more rugged version of the KX3, but that is for another subject. However the KX3 will HEAR things with less interference and better selectivity than the YouKits or the MFJ cub. 

What is 'high end' anyway? Some hams say a $10,000 HF rig is high end. Others will say anything over $2000.  'Low end ' would be something like the Icom 718, selling around $550 to $700 used or new. The 718 while being a good entry level radio;...during contests like 'Field Day' it would be more difficult to separate signals and combat interference. Higher end radios have great filtering and can reject interference much better.  But all these radios have their place in the ham radio world.


Quote
What's stopping YouKits from making a KX3 quality device for say $500

I don't know if they can, but they might certainly try. I think rather than trying to copy the KX3, they are going for another segment of the market. Youkits is planning for the TJ2B MK2 5 Band SSB Handheld Transceiver to be released soon. 


Quote
I realize "name brand" is part of the answer, but if that was the main answer, then I would ask why more people or companies aren't building kits with the same (or better) quality as the KX3, but for cheaper.


It is not just features and price alone that makes a good radio. It is quality and reputation of a good manufacturer that makes a good radio, and Elecraft (which makes the KX3) is well known for it's quality products. A name brand just doesn't just imply familiarity, it  usually implies quality products. I don't think Youkits could top Elecraft in the quality department. Youkits (or some other company) might try to copy the KX3. But it would not be the KX3.

As I stated in another article. I would like to see all the great features of the KX3, FT 817, FT 897, IC 703, SG 2020 and the VX 1210 all be incorporated into one radio. Maybe the Chinese manufacturers can attempt to do it.

I understand what you are saying.  I actually just ordered a KX3 kit a couple days ago.  I'm also buying a YouKits handheld.  I think it's time some players come in and start offering great performing radio hardware, at a price that makes more sense in today's world.  I was explaining to someone else on this website, that it's hard to convince my friends to get involved in ham radio with their kids, when they are going to have to pay $1000-$2000 to get started in HF with decent gear.  That's a major barrier to entry for a lot of people.  Hell, I make a good living and I've asked myself several times if I want to put that kind of money out. 

There will always be a market for the high end, but telling people they have to buy used gear in order to get a decent rig on the low end is silly in the year 2013.  While it may be common for long time ham radio ops, it's a major turn off for people who are tech savvy, but new to radio.

I've seem some other companies making interesting little SSB and CW transceivers as well, experimenting in the market.  I think this is very good for all of us in the long run, and I'll support it with my dollars more than I will the "Big Three" corporations.  Your mileage may vary, but I'm coming into this brand new, and I'd like to see it much more accessible.



If you are worried about the cost of entry level gear, then you should find a cheaper hobby. Seriously.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 07, 2013, 07:45:52 AM

If you are worried about the cost of entry level gear, then you should find a cheaper hobby. Seriously.

I have several expensive hobbies that I don't mind putting money into where the expense is completely justifiable.  As someone who has been working with computer technology and programming for 20 years, I find the pricing of entry level HF gear to be too high in general, given the state of technology today.  I'm asking why it has to be so, and the answer seems to be that it doesn't have to be so... it just is.

One of the reasons I posed the question was because I've heard people ask why so many new hams get their license, and they promptly go inactive.  Cost is certainly a factor, and so is the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general.

Anyway, it doesn't seem to matter now, as I see that there are plenty of people and companies who are getting involved with designing hardware and software for future radio applications that are much more affordable.  We can thank SDR for this, and it's likely to drive pricing for transceivers down across the board in the coming years.  Some of this is happening completely independently of amateur radio, such as the new HackRF board (they are planning a daughter board with HF in mind).


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W4KYR on October 07, 2013, 10:08:02 AM

If you are worried about the cost of entry level gear, then you should find a cheaper hobby. Seriously.
I find the pricing of entry level HF gear to be too high in general, given the state of technology today.  I'm asking why it has to be so, and the answer seems to be that it doesn't have to be so... it just is.

One of the reasons I posed the question was because I've heard people ask why so many new hams get their license, and they promptly go inactive.  Cost is certainly a factor, and so is the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general.


I have seen used rigs such as the Icom IC-718, Kenwood TS 50 and the Alinco DX-70TH sell $475 and up on E-bay.  Other rigs like the IC-725 and the Yaesu FT -840 can be had for  $425 and up.

My first rig, the Icom IC-730 I bought used for under $400 back in the early 90's. I have seen the IC-730 sell for as little as $300 in varying working conditions, usually the preamp relays go on it (like mine did).

Dual band VHF/UHF radios however have dropped like a rock. Back in the 90's they would sell $350 to $450 new. Today the major manufacturers sell basic V/U radios $150 and up and the Baofengs for sell for $35.





Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AA4PB on October 07, 2013, 10:43:56 AM
If you are comparing cost vs technology of consumer products like computers to HF ham radio equipment their is one huge difference - the potential quantity that can be sold. Price goes way down when you can build and sell millions of units. In addition, the RF part of ham radio equipment is still analog and requires a live technician to properly align the circuits after it is built. Most computer boards can be machine built and require no hands on alignment.



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KA5IPF on October 07, 2013, 10:48:29 AM

If you are worried about the cost of entry level gear, then you should find a cheaper hobby. Seriously.

I have several expensive hobbies that I don't mind putting money into where the expense is completely justifiable.  As someone who has been working with computer technology and programming for 20 years, I find the pricing of entry level HF gear to be too high in general, given the state of technology today.  I'm asking why it has to be so, and the answer seems to be that it doesn't have to be so... it just is.

One of the reasons I posed the question was because I've heard people ask why so many new hams get their license, and they promptly go inactive.  Cost is certainly a factor, and so is the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general.

Anyway, it doesn't seem to matter now, as I see that there are plenty of people and companies who are getting involved with designing hardware and software for future radio applications that are much more affordable.  We can thank SDR for this, and it's likely to drive pricing for transceivers down across the board in the coming years.  Some of this is happening completely independently of amateur radio, such as the new HackRF board (they are planning a daughter board with HF in mind).

The biggest cost is in engineering, both mechanical and electrical. No matter if it's a computer, stereo, or ham radio. BUT with a computer or stereo you can divide the costs among millions of units and with ham radio hopefully 10,000 units. Just do the math and figure out which is going to be cheaper.

Clif


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: N2EY on October 07, 2013, 11:32:46 AM
Why some oof these new wizzbang radios hear CW as well as a   Drake R4C with the usual mods.   

Yes, they do.

But consider this:

Back in the early 1970s a new R-4C would set you back US$500 or so - without speaker, optional filters, or extra crystals. That's about $2700 in today's money - for a RECEIVER.

Look at what you can buy new today for $2700, and how it performs.

73 de Jim, N2EY





Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 07, 2013, 11:57:24 AM

If you are worried about the cost of entry level gear, then you should find a cheaper hobby. Seriously.

I have several expensive hobbies that I don't mind putting money into where the expense is completely justifiable.  As someone who has been working with computer technology and programming for 20 years, I find the pricing of entry level HF gear to be too high in general, given the state of technology today.  I'm asking why it has to be so, and the answer seems to be that it doesn't have to be so... it just is.

One of the reasons I posed the question was because I've heard people ask why so many new hams get their license, and they promptly go inactive.  Cost is certainly a factor, and so is the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general.

Anyway, it doesn't seem to matter now, as I see that there are plenty of people and companies who are getting involved with designing hardware and software for future radio applications that are much more affordable.  We can thank SDR for this, and it's likely to drive pricing for transceivers down across the board in the coming years.  Some of this is happening completely independently of amateur radio, such as the new HackRF board (they are planning a daughter board with HF in mind).

The biggest cost is in engineering, both mechanical and electrical. No matter if it's a computer, stereo, or ham radio. BUT with a computer or stereo you can divide the costs among millions of units and with ham radio hopefully 10,000 units. Just do the math and figure out which is going to be cheaper.

Clif

I understand this, and it's exactly why I think SDR is going to have a huge impact on the pricing of these things in the coming years.  Either way, it's going to be interesting to see what happens to this hobby within the next ten years.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 07, 2013, 03:41:25 PM
As someone who has been working with computer technology and radios for well over 20 years, I find the pricing of entry level HF gear to be about the same as entry level computer gear.

A barebones Intel i3 based PC kit and Windows OS will set you back about as much as an entry level Icom HF rig. The Icom rig will serve you longer than the i3 kit, in the long run.





Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 07, 2013, 05:12:53 PM
"I've heard people ask why so many new hams get their license, and they promptly go inactive.  Cost is certainly a factor, and so is the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general."

Good observation.

Many new hams get their license, buy a Baofeng, find out that:

A. The V/U repeater community is interesting, a rewarding experience, and it opens door to furthering their hobby interests.

B. The V/U repeater community is not what they imagined ham radio would be and is boring.


Entry level ham radio, even with a Baofeng, is not just the V/U repeater community, but the first step towards:

1. Learning about antennas. V/U antennas are small and easily constructed from readily available parts, and the instructions for such are readily available on the internet or in handbooks.

2. Radio communication rules, protocols and conventions.

3. Integration of PC and radio for data modes, IRLP, etc.

4. Satellite communications using homebrew antennas.

All of the above can be accomplished for around $70 total if you are willing to search, investigate, follow examples, use small tools, shop Home Depot, and already own a PC of some sort.


"the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general"

That is a fairly subjective observation, IMO. What is it exactly that you are looking for in presentation?

The world of ham radio is open to you and all the information you could possibly need is documented and organized online. If you are looking for in-person coaching, stop by a local Field Day or other amateur radio public event. Take a look around. Meet some hams. It may take a few tries to find the group that contains what you seek. No different than any other hobby.





Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W4KYR on October 07, 2013, 06:51:31 PM
Quote
the disorganized and dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers in general

Not disorganized, but diverse. When I became a ham back in the 90's was right around when the no code tech license (as it was known then) was wildly popular. The HTX 202 was selling like hot cakes. The 2 meters bands were packed on simplex 146.520 (the calling freq.) through 146.580. Repeaters started to get flooded with new hams. Auto patch was very popular as well, not many of us had a cell phone back then.

Two meters was the lions share of the activity and that was our starting point and that was because if you wanted a dual band radio, they were $350 and up at the time. And if you wanted six meters, well that would set you back even more. 220 mhz FM? Those radios were selling close to if not more than $300 just for that one band.

From there some would branch off into packet radio. Weak signal 2 meter SSB. Others would get their 5 wpm and go to 10 meters SSB (probably using a HTX 100). The next step was  general class and get on the HF SSB bands on some used rig. While there were hams that had computers with packet radio tnc's that also did RTTY, WEFAX, Morse, AMTOR and other goodies. Packet was king, it was the internet of the airwaves.

So it was pretty much 2 meter FM, 2 meter packet, some 2 meter SSB, some 440 FM, 10 meter SSB and the HF SSB bands and of course CW that was the lions share. Not to mention other modes like moonbounce, ATV, SSTV and satellite communications.

Now it is different. With the addition of multiband rigs like the IC 706, FT100, FT 817, FT 897 and so on. Six meters started to get popular as well as 2 meter SSB and to an extent 432 SSB.

And with the advent of more powerful computers and soundcard interfaces like the Rigblaster and SignaLink, the digital modes started taking off. Other modes started to get popular like PSK31, so popular that Elecraft featured it on their KX3. PSK31 is one of those great modes where you can have a marginal antenna and 5 watts and work the world.

Along the way packet started dying out with the rise of the internet, but APRS took its place. Then D-Star started to pick up some. And so ham radio changed along the way and got more diverse. And then we had more fragments of the ham radio community experimenting with trail radios, pedestrian radio, ecomm, APRS, fox hunts, manpack and so on and it became even more diverse.

Whereas the entry to ham radio was 2 meters in the 90's. Today it is a different story, not only rigs have more bands, but more modes are available too. It would seem disorganized to newcomers, but it is diverse more than ever.

Quote
"dated nature of the presentation of this hobby to potential newcomers"

Imagine something like the internet but without wires. Being able to talk to other people around the world without Skype or the internet sure has it's appeal. Imagine being able to keep in contact with others during an extended blackout after some tornado or disaster rolled through town. Imagine going camping and stringing some wire up in the trees in the middle of nowhere and being able to talk around the world with a small gel cell battery and a small trail radio that fits in the palm of your hand.

Not having to rely on the internet or the cell phone to carry on a conversation is always a thrill. Ham radio with it's even more diverse range of appeal and independence from the grid has the potential to attract newcomers now more than ever. There is something for everyone.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 08, 2013, 08:09:51 AM
What is lacking in ham radio is a "unified front" for newcomers.  Something that shows off all of the best attributes of amateur radio as a hobby and science, in a modern presentation.  As I've mentioned in other threads, the microelectronics/DIY hobby is exploding right now, and there's a lot that can be learned from the major players there to help bring ham radio up to date.

I don't want people to think I am coming down on amateur radio or bashing it.  That's not my goal at all.  I'd just like to see the presentation and entry points for newcomers get brought up to date. 

SDRs like these are getting a lot of attention in the hacker/maker/DIY scene, but few people are talking about amateur radio there: 

http://www.taylorkillian.com/2013/08/sdr-showdown-hackrf-vs-bladerf-vs-usrp.html


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 08, 2013, 05:50:25 PM
"a "unified front" for newcomers"

"presentation and entry points for newcomers get brought up to date"

Elaborate, please. What exactly is missing?

"the microelectronics/DIY hobby is exploding right now, and there's a lot that can be learned from the major players there to help bring ham radio up to date."

umm... I can't think of any currently popular SDR or digi mode software that didn't begin with some intrepid ham leveraging his/her professional training or serious hobby skills to develop an application, for all of us to use. Most of it absolutely free of charge. That's the nature of ham radio today.

Apache Labs Anan radios began as an implementation of OpenHPSDR.

Then there's http://flexradio.com/Data/Doc/qex1.pdf

What exactly is the disconnect, as you see it, between high tech hobbyists and amateur radio?

What part of amateur radio isn't "up to date"?

If you look around this site, you'll find some seriously knowledgeable contributors with backgrounds encompassing the gamut of professional technical and mechanical disciplines.

Seems the type of guidance you find lacking is and has been all around since day one of amateur radio.

You have only to seek...

You can take a cue from some of our more driven contributors who've taken it upon themselves to create their own in-depth websites around their own particular avenues of interest in amateur radio.

Create your very own "unified front" of aggregated information highlighting all of the missing pieces, and share it with all.









 




Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 08, 2013, 07:27:41 PM
"a "unified front" for newcomers"

"presentation and entry points for newcomers get brought up to date"

Elaborate, please. What exactly is missing?

"the microelectronics/DIY hobby is exploding right now, and there's a lot that can be learned from the major players there to help bring ham radio up to date."

umm... I can't think of any currently popular SDR or digi mode software that didn't begin with some intrepid ham leveraging his/her professional training or serious hobby skills to develop an application, for all of us to use. Most of it absolutely free of charge. That's the nature of ham radio today.

Apache Labs Anan radios began as an implementation of OpenHPSDR.

Then there's http://flexradio.com/Data/Doc/qex1.pdf

What exactly is the disconnect, as you see it, between high tech hobbyists and amateur radio?

What part of amateur radio isn't "up to date"?

If you look around this site, you'll find some seriously knowledgeable contributors with backgrounds encompassing the gamut of professional technical and mechanical disciplines.

Seems the type of guidance you find lacking is and has been all around since day one of amateur radio.

You have only to seek...

You can take a cue from some of our more driven contributors who've taken it upon themselves to create their own in-depth websites around their own particular avenues of interest in amateur radio.

Create your very own "unified front" of aggregated information highlighting all of the missing pieces, and share it with all.



You are missing my point completely, and I see no reason to drag it on.  You cannot share my perspective, and that's perfectly OK.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 08, 2013, 08:29:42 PM
I didn't see a point. That's why I was attempting to assist you in defining one. That's OK, though. I've seen more than a couple of fellow IT professionals go into the hobby and come right back out. Others have stayed. I hope you do.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 09, 2013, 10:22:06 AM
I didn't see a point. That's why I was attempting to assist you in defining one. That's OK, though. I've seen more than a couple of fellow IT professionals go into the hobby and come right back out. Others have stayed. I hope you do.

Thanks for the reply.

I'm not going anywhere.  I'm trying to contribute to the betterment of the hobby by explaining ways in which I think it could be presented in a more organized and modern fashion to interested people.

Coming into this hobby fresh requires a good deal of research to even get a basic shack setup, and that assumes you already understand what you are trying to setup, and why.  I came here bright-eyed not even really having the slightest clue what I wanted to do, but I knew that I found the basic idea of communicating long distances via radio to sound exciting, and I liked the idea of radio as a way to stay connected to others during emergencies.  I have since come to understand a lot more about how deep this hobby is, and how many activities there are, and I'm still blown away by it.

The Tech ticket, for example, barely introduces you to the concept of ham radio, let alone assisting you in getting started from scratch.  Yes, an intrepid person, as I am, can do the research and find all the information they ever needed, and they can also waste a lot of time sifting through *opinions*.  I've already spent more hours learning the basics of ham radio than I have learning any technical subject for the past 20 years (feels a lot like going to school), and I'm enjoying it, but maybe I'm a glutton for punishment :).  I've invested in gear for UHF/VHF and HF, so I am well on my way.

I'll give you an example:  I came to this site before I even took the tech test and when I asked about getting started in radio gear, I was given 8 million opinions, many of which devolved into arguments between hams. All of the replies assumed I understood what bands I wanted to work (everyone assumes HF), and why.  Many people suggested expensive equipment, or told me to trust buying used equipment from people I don't know.  It was confusing.

What I would like to see is a complete website dedicated to getting people started in the hobby.  It should look and function in a modern fashion, using High Def videos where possible, and provide much of the information that one would need to *become interested* in radio and then get started.  While there are various "getting started" guides out there, many of which I have read, they could be massively improved upon, and presented at a single point of entry for the hobby.

Think of it as a "digital Elmer", a modern How-To / FAQ format. "Standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us" is something I believe in.  I've come across many tech geeks and programmers over the years that have an elitist attitude about how much effort they put into learning their skills, and they like to throw it in people's faces by saying "go learn yourself".  Either that, or they have been doing it for so long they have completely forgotten what it's like to come in green.

I came across this Makezine post recently, and it illustrates a very straightforward presentation of getting started with an HF shack.  It assumes quite a bit of prior knowledge of the reader, but it's still one of the best 'Getting Started' guides I've seen online:

http://makezine.com/2010/08/01/setting-up-a-radio-shack/

Makezine.com, in general, is a great website to illustrate the way I would like to see the radio hobby presented.

http://makezine.com/


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AK7V on October 09, 2013, 02:15:50 PM
There's a tradition of in-person "Elmering" in ham radio that is much better than online sources for a beginner.

And it's better when you start young, because you don't have preconceived notions of how the hobby should be, or how it should be taught, or how things work.  You find someone who teaches you, you listen, you learn, and you do. 

Also, we have published information on how to set up a shack -- the ARRL Handbook is a great example.  It has a lot more, too.  If you read and understand that book, you're off to a strong start.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 09, 2013, 05:19:12 PM
Showing a new ham how to do everything to get on the air, without requiring the new ham to put forth any effort in learning at least basic principles to be applied, is like making a website describing all the steps to starting up a helicopter, then expecting the prospective pilot will then, magically, after only watching the video, successfully jump right in and fly away with no adverse incidents..




Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1JKA on October 09, 2013, 07:42:13 PM
Re: K5TED  reply #55

   I like your helo pilot analogy, it ranks right up there with those guys that go to college for 4-6 years to study political sci. or get law degrees then get elected to congress and expecting them to know why their there or get something done.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 09:24:57 AM
There's a tradition of in-person "Elmering" in ham radio that is much better than online sources for a beginner.

And it's better when you start young, because you don't have preconceived notions of how the hobby should be, or how it should be taught, or how things work.  You find someone who teaches you, you listen, you learn, and you do. 

Also, we have published information on how to set up a shack -- the ARRL Handbook is a great example.  It has a lot more, too.  If you read and understand that book, you're off to a strong start.

Not everyone has access to, or wants to find an Elmer.  I'm not saying the information isn't out there, I'm saying it could be presented in a much more modern and efficient way. 


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 09:29:57 AM
Re: K5TED  reply #55

   I like your helo pilot analogy, it ranks right up there with those guys that go to college for 4-6 years to study political sci. or get law degrees then get elected to congress and expecting them to know why their there or get something done.

I am suggesting that the hobby need an updated and modernized image, as well as updated and modernized tools to get people interested in it.  Not that we try to train them to be a contest operator with "a few easy steps".

If you guys disagree with me, that's fine, I can understand that.  It will be interesting to see what the hobby looks like in ten years if it stays on the 'Old Man' track.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AK7V on October 10, 2013, 09:42:14 AM
I see this as an issue with what people consider knowledge these days.  What people consider adequate understanding.

People want to be able to Google solutions to their specific problems.  I admit, it's convenient.  My rig is doing something funny?  Google it.  Need to code some sort of task?  Google it and cut-and-paste.  (I do that when I'm in a hurry, or if I just want a result and don't really care about knowing much.)  There doesn't seem to be much interest in foundation-type knowledge, though.  In reading books laid out in a linear, building-on-previous chapters, manner.  In acquiring and exercising the fundamental information that allows someone to navigate confidently and competently through a technical endeavor.  It's all about making the answers easy to find at the tip of your fingers.  Copying what others have done because the result is more important and immediate than the journey.

This may be the new reality and it does have its plusses, but I argue that it has drawbacks, too. 

There is nothing inefficient with reading a book like the ARRL Handbook.  It has an index, chapters, etc.  It is written in an accessible style and covers enough of the fundamentals to generally steer people in the right direction.

I am becoming curmudgeonly -- and still in my 30s.  lol. Don't mind me.  ;D


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 10:09:39 AM
I see this as an issue with what people consider knowledge these days.  What people consider adequate understanding.

People want to be able to Google solutions to their specific problems.  I admit, it's convenient.  My rig is doing something funny?  Google it.  Need to code some sort of task?  Google it and cut-and-paste.  (I do that when I'm in a hurry, or if I just want a result and don't really care about knowing much.)  There doesn't seem to be much interest in foundation-type knowledge, though.  In reading books laid out in a linear, building-on-previous chapters, manner.  In acquiring and exercising the fundamental information that allows someone to navigate confidently and competently through a technical endeavor.  It's all about making the answers easy to find at the tip of your fingers.  Copying what others have done because the result is more important and immediate than the journey.

This may be the new reality and it does have its plusses, but I argue that it has drawbacks, too.  

There is nothing inefficient with reading a book like the ARRL Handbook.  It has an index, chapters, etc.  It is written in an accessible style and covers enough of the fundamentals to generally steer people in the right direction.

I am becoming curmudgeonly -- and still in my 30s.  lol. Don't mind me.  ;D

You aren't bothering me. ;)  You are talking about deeper training, and I'm talking about image and presentation.  Helping newcomers get into the hobby where they can then dig deeper.  RF is a complicated thing, no two ways about it, but if the hobby is to continue growing, it needs to stay up with the times.  That doesn't mean trying to hand it all to them on a silver platter, but it does mean showing the hobby in a modern and exciting light to the "video game generation", or whatever you want to call it.

Let me put it this way.  Which one of these sites do you think would encourage a tech savvy newcomer to get into radio:

http://makezine.com/  (not a radio site, but look at the way info is presented)

or

http://www.hamuniverse.com/firstradio.html

By the way, you get a mixed bag of people when you try to suggest everyone go find an Elmer these days.  I was put in contact with a local guy who seemed nice enough right up until he started trying to convince me to buy an Icom 7100 because he has one.  I told him I didn't like the black/white touch display, which ticked him off, and I had to respectfully move on.  I don't particularly feel like bouncing off of people until I find one I can get along with, and I am not hard to befriend.  In this day and age, the internet can provide a lot of what Elmering does, and it can do so 24 hours a day.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 10, 2013, 11:04:54 AM
 I wonder where the next generation of RF design engineers will come from if they don't start as amateurs? We're already seeing new graduates who can only design by simulation and don't understand when the simulator is wrong. One example was a new graduate told to simulate interference distances between two low power short range devices. Firstly he forgot that the C/I needs taking into account and then calculated the interference distance over some 200 metres - and because the simulation gave 4 decimal places, quoted the distance to 100 microns without seeing how ludicrous that is! At 868 MHz...Another one used a simulator that didn't look for optimum noise match, just optimum impedance match...One who claimed to know about RF when asked how to design a 200MHz amplifier with a voltage gain of 10 said that he'd look for a transistor with a gain of 10 at 200 MHz.

But the classic was the three relatively experienced designers who asked why I wanted a cascode PA stage at 400 MHz, because feedback through drain - gate capacitance would be negative in a grounded source stage, even with a tuned output.

Fortunately, we got hold of a 1955 edition of Terman and showed them 'stability in triode amplifiers' and introduced them to Miller Effect with a reactive plate (drain) load....


Makes me glad I am retired.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 11:10:33 AM
I wonder where the next generation of RF design engineers will come from if they don't start as amateurs? We're already seeing new graduates who can only design by simulation and don't understand when the simulator is wrong. One example was a new graduate told to simulate interference distances between two low power short range devices. Firstly he forgot that the C/I needs taking into account and then calculated the interference distance over some 200 metres - and because the simulation gave 4 decimal places, quoted the distance to 100 microns without seeing how ludicrous that is! At 868 MHz...Another one used a simulator that didn't look for optimum noise match, just optimum impedance match...One who claimed to know about RF when asked how to design a 200MHz amplifier with a voltage gain of 10 said that he'd look for a transistor with a gain of 10 at 200 MHz.

But the classic was the three relatively experienced designers who asked why I wanted a cascode PA stage at 400 MHz, because feedback through drain - gate capacitance would be negative in a grounded source stage, even with a tuned output.

Fortunately, we got hold of a 1955 edition of Terman and showed them 'stability in triode amplifiers' and introduced them to Miller Effect with a reactive plate (drain) load....


Makes me glad I am retired.

Well, young people are building stuff like this now, for other frequencies:  

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mossmann/hackrf-an-open-source-sdr-platform

There is a lot of interest in SDR starting up now with the DIY electronics crowd.  Actually, right now there is a boom in the electronics hobby outside of amateur radio.  They are doing all kinds of experiments, building their own prototypes, creating products that can go on the market, etc.  I wouldn't be too quick to discount the hobbyists and engineers that aren't from you generation, especially since we are completely immersed in technology that they are building today.  Check out the DIY drone/robotics hobby too.

I know, I know... every generation thinks they are/were the best.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 10, 2013, 11:27:37 AM
I couldn't find any parameters listed for IMD (in and out of channel, 3rd and 2nd order, at various input levels), blocking (gain compression) and blocking (reciprocal mixing), radiation from antenna port, signal to noise improvement ratio, and integrated dynamic range against interferer offset - i.e. combination of reciprocal mixing, blocking and 3rd order IMD. Plus AM rejection which is usually (but not always) related to second order IMD. Or spurious response performance - internal and external.

Those are the parameters that differentiate a toy from a radio receiver......


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 11:41:33 AM
I couldn't find any parameters listed for IMD (in and out of channel, 3rd and 2nd order, at various input levels), blocking (gain compression) and blocking (reciprocal mixing), radiation from antenna port, signal to noise improvement ratio, and integrated dynamic range against interferer offset - i.e. combination of reciprocal mixing, blocking and 3rd order IMD. Plus AM rejection which is usually (but not always) related to second order IMD. Or spurious response performance - internal and external.

Those are the parameters that differentiate a toy from a radio receiver......

It's relevant to the current generation in frequencies where most of the current tech devices are.  Tomorrow's radios probably won't be concerned much with HF.  That particular device was made for experimenting, prototyping, programming, etc. which is why it's called HackRF. Some people have requested an add-on board for HF bands, and the designer says they may do it. There are a few other "hacker friendly' boards like this too.

I hang out with both the amateur radio crowd now, and the hacker/maker crowd.  Those guys generally don't know much about this hobby, other than it existing, and having misconceptions about radio communications being generally irrelevant.

My conversation here has been about refreshing this hobby's image to make it more appealing, but if no one wants to do that, then we'll just have to see where it is in 5-10 years.  I've seen a lot of people here who are invested in keeping the bands we have, and growing the hobby, but my suggestions for ways to do so are usually met by people who are seemingly interested in letting it age out instead.



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1JKA on October 10, 2013, 11:58:23 AM
Re: KK6GNP reply #62

   It's not that every generation thinks they are/were the best, it's that with every passing generation we realize that more of the basic knowledge of things is being lost. This is due to the rapid advancement in science and technology which will continue to be the nature of things in the future. Can't feed yourself or cook? no problem just go to the grocery store, buy some chemically processed "food" and throw it in the micro wave. Can't fix your child's bike? no problem, just go to Wally World and buy him a new one. Can't do basic car maintenance? no problem, just go to Jiffy Lube. Want to be a ham radio operator (I intentionally left out AMATEUR)? no problem just  get your FCC learners permit, order your instant rig from HRO and get on the air. The list goes on and on. In to days society this is the norm and accepted way of doing things for most folks but the rest of us prefer to find our own capabilities and limitations.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 12:08:55 PM
Re: KK6GNP reply #62

   It's not that every generation thinks they are/were the best, it's that with every passing generation we realize that more of the basic knowledge of things is being lost. This is due to the rapid advancement in science and technology which will continue to be the nature of things in the future. Can't feed yourself or cook? no problem just go to the grocery store, buy some chemically processed "food" and throw it in the micro wave. Can't fix your child's bike? no problem, just go to Wally World and buy him a new one. Can't do basic car maintenance? no problem, just go to Jiffy Lube. Want to be a ham radio operator (I intentionally left out AMATEUR)? no problem just  get your FCC learners permit, order your instant rig from HRO and get on the air. The list goes on and on. In to days society this is the norm and accepted way of doing things for most folks but the rest of us prefer to find our own capabilities and limitations.

I generally agree with this, and one of my other hobbies is self-sufficiency.  I cook, build my own computers, grow a little food, work on my own cars, etc.  I like to do things with my hands to disconnect from the connected world I work in all day.  I only do so if I have something to learn from the activity though.

The thing is though, there's also a price on free time these days, since most households feature both parents working full time+.  Factor in children, and there's not much time in the day for learning to be self-sufficient. I weigh things against what I believe my free time is worth monetarily.  Do I want to go hiking with my daughter, or change the oil, which requires next to nothing for thought process, and assures that I will have 6 quarts of waste oil to deliver to a recycling place (or dump it in the woods like idiots do).  Do I want to do yard work for three hours on the weekend, or pay two guys a low rate to come and get it done for me in an hour?  

What's the point of technology if it isn't to make things easier, better and hands off?  One of my other-other-other hobbies is contemplation of the future (futurism).  We're heading into an era where most jobs, white and blue collar, are going to be automated.  Most people's jobs are nothing more than simple decision making (algorithm), based off of knowledge (database).  Software is capable of doing most of the jobs for the people I know, it just hasn't been written yet.  Artistic/highly creative jobs are the main exception, as computers aren't going to be any good at this for a long time.

That thought process will lead you down all kinds of roads, one of which is, how does our buy-sell-waste economy work in an automated world?  What will people be doing for a living, especially those who have skills that are not relevant in 5-10 years? Maybe people will soon have more time on their hands to learn how to be self-sufficient. ;)


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 12:31:28 PM
By the way, if people are wondering "where all the jobs went" after this recession, part of that answer is the automation factor that came as a result of companies having to streamline processes, largely with technology.  Those jobs aren't coming back, and the longer we dwell on them, the further behind we get.  I personally helped many of my clients replace people with technology, and guess which one gets the job done faster and more accurately, without dealing with sick days, vacations, and benefits.

We should start thinking much more about the future, and much less about the so-called "good old days".  Those who don't, will be left behind sooner than they think.  

(This is way off topic now, but it's a pet subject of mine, so I can't help myself.)



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: AK7V on October 10, 2013, 02:12:22 PM
KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things. 

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course. 

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution ;)  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python ;)) 

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try! 




Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 10, 2013, 03:04:13 PM
KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things.  

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course.  

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution ;)  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python ;))  

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try!  


Thanks for the kind words, I imagine you are correct that we would have a great time talking about all kinds of stuff.

BTW, this came up on my Facebook feed from NPR today, and it's relevant to our discussion:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/10/09/230696399/step-into-science-lets-abandon-nerdy-stereotypes

The reason people are spiffing up science and electronics right now is because we need more kids to get involved for the future.  We have a massive shortage of talent to take on the stuff coming down the line.  Programming is in its infancy compared to where it's going.

Makezine.com is largely a site about DIY electronics and citizen science projects, and I think ham radio could be presented the same way.  There's nothing glamorous about making an LCD say "Hello World" with a circuit and code you put together, but it sure feels great.  It's not even about dolling ham radio up as much as just bring the presentation up to date so that it can attract more people, especially younger people.  I'd like to see this hobby continue on, and I question how long that's going to happen with the price of entry into HF, and the old school 90's websites using the "wall of text" approach to presentation.   It's simply a turn off.  People can scoff at that fact if they want, but it is.

BTW:  I'm aware a lot of those websites are "homebrew", and that explains the layout.  I'm grateful people share all the info they do.  I just want to be clear on that fact.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KG4NEL on October 10, 2013, 10:15:52 PM
KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things.  

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course.  

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution ;)  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python ;))  

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try!  


Thanks for the kind words, I imagine you are correct that we would have a great time talking about all kinds of stuff.

BTW, this came up on my Facebook feed from NPR today, and it's relevant to our discussion:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/10/09/230696399/step-into-science-lets-abandon-nerdy-stereotypes

The reason people are spiffing up science and electronics right now is because we need more kids to get involved for the future.  We have a massive shortage of talent to take on the stuff coming down the line.  Programming is in its infancy compared to where it's going.

Makezine.com is largely a site about DIY electronics and citizen science projects, and I think ham radio could be presented the same way.  There's nothing glamorous about making an LCD say "Hello World" with a circuit and code you put together, but it sure feels great.  It's not even about dolling ham radio up as much as just bring the presentation up to date so that it can attract more people, especially younger people.  I'd like to see this hobby continue on, and I question how long that's going to happen with the price of entry into HF, and the old school 90's websites using the "wall of text" approach to presentation.   It's simply a turn off.  People can scoff at that fact if they want, but it is.

BTW:  I'm aware a lot of those websites are "homebrew", and that explains the layout.  I'm grateful people share all the info they do.  I just want to be clear on that fact.

I'm 27, so I may be aging out of being relevant to this discussion, but I was young enough to be exposed to the Internet long before I ever saw an HF radio in person.

AK7V's point about radio for radio's sake is a good one - we're never going to get everyone, but that's OK. I've been in this hobby since 2001, and I still don't think I could come up with a good answer if someone asked me point-blank why they should become a ham. Either you grok what we're on about - whether it's writing code for an SDR or pruning a dipole - or this whole thing seems like a silly adventure that could be accomplished with a smartphone. It brings a joy that's very difficult to describe to the layperson, much like a couch potato trying to rationalize why a marathon runner would do that to themselves.

But people my age and younger have flocked to analog solutions, as well - I don't know whether it's a backlash against the iPod-ization of electronics in general, but it's interesting that in 2013 the LP has a better prognosis than the CD does. The market for DIY tube audio has exploded in the last decade. It's a curious world where a 1930s-era triode power amp design might be used with a 192KHz DAC playing a lossless codec. I think we've seen what W1JKA mentioned about the ever-increasing "throwaway-ness" of our technology, and more than a number of us have become quasi-Luddites, if not Facebook and Twitter-active ones  :P

Bringing it back to ham radio, I think the key is not to stifle the discussion of anything new, but we shouldn't be ashamed of the fact that some of this stuff has been around for a long time. You never know how future generations will assimilate the ideas of the past :)


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 11, 2013, 12:57:43 AM
Some 'old'  technologies still have an enormous appeal anyway. Look at how many people turn out to see a steam train! Further, despite CAD control of machine tools, there are still a number of youngsters learning how to use lathes and mills to make live steam models.

But in the RF field, you need more than just the ability to put numbers into a simulator. In the boom times for cellphone manufacture in Europe, there was one Scandinavian company where if you see lightning and hear thunder, you got taught how to simulate a circuit given to you. When the downturn came along, a lot of these people were looking for jobs and thought they were RF engineers - but they weren't capable of doing RF circuit design from scratch to meet a requirement.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: W1VT on October 11, 2013, 05:41:13 AM
What is lacking in ham radio is a "unified front" for newcomers.  Something that shows off all of the best attributes of amateur radio as a hobby and science, in a modern presentation.  As I've mentioned in other threads, the microelectronics/DIY hobby is exploding right now, and there's a lot that can be learned from the major players there to help bring ham radio up to date

The only way you are going to do this is to create your own organization/web site. 

I knew a guy who wanted to do weak signal VHF--he wasted years of time and effort trying to convert other clubs to support his interest.  He finally got smart and created his own club--putting up the cash to make it happen.  One of the wisest investments he ever made----the club is still going strong today!

I have three hobbies, radio, roses, and rocketry.  One is doing really well, with membership and numbers at an all time high, another has basically been at the same level for decades, and the other, unfortunately, has a membership only a tiny fraction of what it once was.  Anyone care to guess which is which?

Zack W1VT



Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KG4NEL on October 11, 2013, 04:39:07 PM
I don't know is on third?

 ;D

I know the overall numbers of ham ops is at an all-time high - and if Wikipedia is to be trusted, about a quarter of a percent of the US population. It'd be interesting to compare that percentage to the late '50s or '60s, though.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: K5TED on October 11, 2013, 06:43:20 PM
"It's a curious world where a 1930s-era triode power amp design might be used with a 192KHz DAC playing a lossless codec"

My chill zone amp is a vintage KG-250 with original Mullard tubes, and homebrew full range speakers, through which I generally play DVD-Audio discs (96/24).

I just sounds better...


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 14, 2013, 02:56:00 AM
KK6GNP

When I commented that parameters such as phase noise, intermodulation etc aren't specified, you said:

>It's relevant to the current generation in frequencies where most of the current tech devices are.  Tomorrow's radios probably won't be concerned much with HF.  That particular device was made for experimenting, prototyping, programming, etc. which is why it's called HackRF.<

Sorry, they are VERY relevant to anything below 78GHz. Do you think that such parameters would appear in professional standards if they weren't? There's also the transmit side where the current SDR offerings aren't as clean as is desirable.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KK6GNP on October 14, 2013, 09:57:12 AM
KK6GNP

When I commented that parameters such as phase noise, intermodulation etc aren't specified, you said:

>It's relevant to the current generation in frequencies where most of the current tech devices are.  Tomorrow's radios probably won't be concerned much with HF.  That particular device was made for experimenting, prototyping, programming, etc. which is why it's called HackRF.<

Sorry, they are VERY relevant to anything below 78GHz. Do you think that such parameters would appear in professional standards if they weren't? There's also the transmit side where the current SDR offerings aren't as clean as is desirable.

Did you ever find the specs for the board?  I think it's still in active development.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: G3RZP on October 14, 2013, 12:37:53 PM
There should be a 'design aim' or a 'spec to which we are working'. Otherwise, it must be no more than 'amateur-shamateur' or at best ' totally non-professional competence approach'. But even 'amateur-shamateur' needs to be able to show it meets Part 97.


Title: RE: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?
Post by: KB6QXM on October 23, 2013, 05:15:31 AM
What I find interesting is that it seemed like Elecraft followers answered your question. The answers were SDR versus conventional radios. If I am not mistaken, the original question was the price point of a high-end radio and high-end price point versus the performance/satisfaction of a kit. I guess you really have to define what you are going to do with the radio and in what circumstances. If you want to have an old-fashioned local rag chew with very little QRM, then an inexpensive kit radio might do well for you. If you are a contester in the big gun arena, then maybe some better designed radios might be in order.

Do I believe that the high-end has it purpose. Yes, but again, it is the environment that you will subject the radio to, how deep your pockets are, do you really need a high-end radio? Some people are happy being 100watt rag chewers. Others are the "radio sport" people who need the performance of a highly designed radio. In my opinion, there is diminishing returns. I believe that you will get a thousand opinions here. The advantages of high-end conventional radios versus high-end SDRs versus low-end conventional versus low-end SDR. It depends on your application.

The only thing that bothers me is the almost "cult" like bias from each of the camps. I have owned low-end conventional to high-end conventional to high-end SDR. They all have their + and -

My message is define what you are going to use the radio for, define your budget and make a purchasing decision in that matter.

73 de KB6QXM